An Unexpected Hike

An Unexpected Hike

My initial expectation of the Xitou Nature Area (溪頭自然區) was that it was going to be a walk in the park, so all I had with me was a small daypack with my sweatshirt, wallet, and passport. I donned my Vans and was ready for a stroll with the parents. Entry fee is 200NT ($7) for adults and 10NT ($0.35) for seniors.

The path is a well paved gradual climb.

Another thing I’ve noticed about being retired is that I’m surrounded by the over-65 crowd.

The requisite uniform is a pack (which I later discovered carried proper lunch boxes as opposed to the trail mixes and sandwiches that we normally pack for our long hikes), hiking poles, and knee braces for those arthritic knees.

Parents and I stuck to the easy 1.5K paved path to the Skywalk.

Skywalk above the forest
View from above
Check out the size of that fern

After another 0.5K, we parted ways as I wanted to keep walking up as they would complete the lower loop before heading back to the hotel.

Past the 2K mark is the start of the Phoenix Trail to the right
Instead of staying on the paved road, I opted for the steeper climb for more challenge and solitude. However, the trail quickly reconnected with the main road.
Luckily, another trail split off the main after a distance
This one is a much longer and steeper climb
But I got a chance to catch my breath when I spotted this little monkey along the trail
At the top of the trail (intersecting with the main road) is this marker which indicates you’re 1700 meters above sea level. Continuing on the main path brings you to a set of stairs on the right.
Which offers a nice view of Chitou below. The white structure circled in red is our hotel, Le Midi.

So far, the hike had been pretty straight forward and not particularly challenging. However, that was about to change in a big way once I started to make my way back down.

Back at the 1700m altitude marker. There’s actually another path to the left of it, which brings you back down near the tour bus parking area (off to the side from the park entrance).
Map at the start of the trail.

So instead of taking the easier way down the paved road, I thought I’d avoid the crowd by taking this trail which looks more like a real hiking trail. What I didn’t realize is that this trail isn’t part of the park, and that some hikers hike up this trail to avoid paying the park entrance fees, but then they’d make their way down the main road within the park once they get to the observatory. So, essentially I was hiking in the opposite direction than everyone else. Not only that, because it is not part of the park, the park has been continuously closing off the lower sections to dissuade people from hooking onto this trail. However, hikers have been creating new trails at the same time to bypass closures. This means lots of bifurcations without clear trail markings.

Before getting to my first confusing trail split, I got to experience this absolutely breathtaking view of the mountains with a tea plantation in the foreground.
This is what I call a hiking trail

As I got to my first split and still trying to figure out which way to go, a man I had met earlier came down the trail. Luckily he (阿龍) was there at that very moment, because he was able to guide me all the way back down. In fact, he’s the main guy who’s been creating new trails, and he was concerned that I was on the trail without a guide.

He was even kind enough to offer me corn and guava (the sweetest I have ever had) that he grew himself, when he found out I hadn’t packed any food with me (remember I was only planning for a walk in the park).
There are many sections with ropes to guide you up and down the trail. These came in handy as my Vans were not the proper footwear.
Views like this are the reason why I choose trails over the mass friendly paved roads

阿龍 introduced me to the newest trail that he’s been working on. In fact, the trail is so new that I’m only the 10th person who’s ever gotten a chance to hike it. The best part of this trail is that it leads right out to Le Midi!

Thinking back, I was very lucky with this trail. However, I will certainly not recommend this trail without a guide as it is very easy to get lost. Had I not run into 阿龍 when I did, I would have had to retrace my steps back to the main road in the park.

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